Health board member Tom Morton has stood down and fired criticism at NHS Shetland for what he called its “austerity-fuelled diminution of health services”.
Mr Morton’s resignation follows a number of high-profile rifts and resignations which have plagued the health board and integration joint board (IJB) in the past year.
He is the fourth non-executive member to resign in the past year and will vacate a number of roles, including his position as chairman of the NHS Shetland Endowments Committee and as a voting member on the Integration Joint Board (IJB).
The controversial closure of the Ronas Ward at the Gilbert Bain Hospital in Lerwick has been one of the issues which spurred Mr Morton’s decision. He said the move was “simply an indicator of what, in board speak, is the ‘direction of travel’.”
In correspondence with this newspaper, Mr Morton said decisions “portrayed as cheaper and more efficient” were “simply going to mean worse care”.
The board existed simply to enact “the brutal requirements of Edinburgh politicians” and non-executive members are essentially powerless to contradict the government, he said.
“As non-execs, we are essentially window dressing,” Mr Morton stated in his letter of resignation. “We are presented with fait accompli after fait accompli. We may delay or nitpick, but we change nothing.”
Mr Morton said non-executive members were expected to “toe the NHS line”.
He wrote: “For the people of Shetland everything depends on being adequately and fearlessly spoken for by the councillors.”
However, councillors have also struggled in their dealings with the health board, with the IJB suffering from a number of disputes in the past year.
When the issue of closing Ronas Ward was discussed at a meeting of the IJB in September both councillors present – Gary Cleaver and Billy Fox – had misgivings.
But ultimately their voices were overruled, and the decision to close the ward permanently was taken last month.
In February Mr Cleaver quit the IJB, claiming the NHS was “overspending hugely”.
Meanwhile, an email seen by this newspaper, prior to May’s council elections, revealed that former IJB chairman Cecil Smith did not want any further dealings with the board if re-elected.
Mr Smith cited personality clashes between elected members and officials on the board.
Other recent resignations have included former vice-chairwoman Catriona Waddington and Harold Massie of the Public Partnership Forum.
Mr Massie, when departing, said that the work expected from him was one of the main reasons for his departure.
• More to follow